What does it mean to be in remission?

March 07, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

After your cancer treatment has ended, the word remission may be music to your ears. Being in remission is often a goal for those diagnosed with cancer, but what does it really mean anyway?  

If your doctor tells you your cancer is in remission, it often means there is a decrease in or disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer. This tells your doctor that your treatment is working and the tumors are shrinking. When you enter into remission, you can reduce or maybe even stop your treatment.

Once your treatment is paused, there is often a need for follow-up care with your doctor. This is based on the stage and severity of the disease, and every type of cancer is different. Your doctor will work with you to determine your individual plan of care.

Unfortunately many of us know that cancer isn’t always a one-time event. It can be a chronic, ongoing illness that never completely goes away.

There are two different kinds of remission: partial remission and complete remission. 

  • In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. 
  • In a partial remission, the tumor and the cancer in your body itself has decreased, but there may be some signs and symptoms that remain to indicate cancer. Some cancer cells may still remain in your body many years after cancer has been treated, which may cause the cancer to return one day.

The American Cancer Society says to qualify for either type of remission, the absence of a tumor or the reduction in the size of the tumor, must last for at least one month.

With all this said, there is hope for moving past the disease.

If you are in remission, you can fight the fear of cancer returning by having a plan with your doctor for follow-up care and talking about your fears with others. It is also important to live a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet, manage stress and pay attention to signs and signals from your body.

You can also join a support group or virtual support group to share your experience and connect with others.

Edward-Elmhurst Health has created a Cancer Survivorship Clinic to assist individuals with the transition from active treatment to cancer survivor. Learn more about the Cancer Survivorship Clinic.

Find cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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